When it comes to motivating Black undergraduates to embrace careers in science and engineering, few can point to more success than Hrabowski. Over the course of 30 years as UMBC’s president, he transformed UMBC into a top-tier research institution famous for sending more Black undergraduates on to Ph.D.s in natural sciences and engineering than any other U.S. university.
In a series of books and speeches, Hrabowski has explained how UMBC raises the odds of academic success for young African American men and women, especially in STEM fields, through a combination of community building, lab work, faculty involvement, and hard work. Hrabwoski half-jokingly calls UMBC “the house of grit.” One newly famous UMBC alum is fellow STATUS List honoree Kizzmekia Corbett, a Harvard immunologist who helped lead the NIH team working on Spikevax, Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.
Hrabowski and his wife, Jacqueline, both participated in Phase 3 clinical trials of Spikevax, and he has argued that making STEM fields more inclusive is one path to undoing the structural racism — and the historical mistrust of the medical establishment — that have led to lower vaccination rates and poorer health outcomes among Black and brown people. “Every one of these success stories changes attitudes about who can be successful in science while also making the point that we need all available talent to attack the problems we are facing,” Hrabowski says.
Hrabowski, who announced plans to step down as UMBC’s president this year, leaves a remarkable legacy.